As a child in Kupishok, Lithuania, before the First World War, I
remember the remarks made about the Family Book, or "Pinkas" as it was called,
but then I was too young to understand its meaning and value. When the Germans attacked
our town in 1915, we fled to Preli, District Dvinsk, where my father owned the Zinman Beer
Distillery. I remember that the first thing my father worried about was the family book,
and during our stay in Preli, it was carefully looked after and cherished.
We stayed in Preli for about a year, but when the Germans started
to advance on Dvinsk, we were forced to move again. This time we went to Priluki, Ukraine
where my father's cousin Zalman had gone a year earlier when he and his family had left
Kupishok. Zalman and my father were good friends and so father was ready to accept
Zalman's advice to join him there.
I grew up in Prilucki and the family lived there until 1922.
Although the Bolsheviks had taken over Russia in 1917, Prilucki remained under the rule of
the White Russians, the Cossacks, under the leadership of General Petlura. Many pogroms
were carried out by Petlura's forces and thousands of Jews were killed. Among them was
Zalman's son, Reuven. The Cossacks were fighting a losing battle with the Communists. And
as they retreated they purged their anger on the Jewish community. The last few days
before the Cossacks retreated they killed hundreds of Jews in the town, and they robbed
practically every Jewish home.
When they entered our house, they found the "Pinkas".
Probably they had never seen such a thickly bound book before. They must have thought that
there was money in the leather cover so they cut the book to pieces. I remember that my
father did not speak about our belongings that had been taken, but till this day, I can
recall how he cried at the loss of the "Pinkas." To him it was of much greater
value than the material goods that the Cossacks had robbed us of.
My father never forgot the "Pinkas", and as I grew
older, he told me stories about it. I don't remember everything but I wish to record those
things that I do remember.
The first few pages could not be read as the ink must have faded.
The pages that could be partially read were about our family during their sojourns in
Holland. It was generally understood that the family had found refuge in Holland after
having left Spain during the Inquisition.
At the beginning of the 19th century, one of the Trapidos went to
Lithuania to look after the interests of the family business, which apparently had to do
with importing goods, perhaps geese or geese feathers, from Lithuania. The newcomer
settled around the town of Kupishok, which was a fertile district for flax. The
information about this first settler and his family is not very clear and all definite
information which I have is from the third generation which lived in Lithuania.
My great-grandfather established his oldest son Shlomo in a Beer
Hall in Zunta, a suburb of Kupishok. The beer-hall in a village was a place where the
peasants came to drink and to bring their produce to be sold. As the beer-hall business
proved successful, great-grandfather established his second son Leiba (my grandfather) in
Payodepa, his third son Moishe Kasriel in the village of Nvi and his fourth son, Yoel in
the village of Derlanche. Payodepa, Nvi, and Derlanche were all near Kupishok.
[Spellings as per Israel Trapido. We cannot locate all of these
towns on modern maps. However, with the help of the present mayor of Kupiskis, L.
Apsega (Feb. 3, 1999), we have identified Zunta, which today is represented by Zunts
Street in Kupiskis and Payodepa, as modern Pajuodupis, once the administrative center of
19th century Kupiskis.]
As the children grew up and their parents wanted them to have a
Jewish education, it was more convenient to move to Kupishok, and so between 1860 and
1880, all the families moved to Kupishok.
At that time in Kupishok, great-grandfather's youngest child, a
daughter, Leah, had married Zundel Ber Ginsburg, and they had an "Aptekarski
magazine" which was a place that had the right to sell all kinds of medicine but not
to make up prescriptions. Besides being a Talmudist, Zundel was a highly educated man in
During the second half of the 19th century, the political
situation for Jews had worsened and laws had been passed which restricted Jews and
prevented them from owning land. Jews were forced to live in towns. Many started to
immigrate to the new world. Because the Trapido family was well established in the town
and their financial position was relatively good, they did not begin emigrating before the
beginning of this century. A number of them went to the United States and Uncle Noach was
the first of the family to go to South Africa. He returned to Kupishok after a few years
because he felt unable to live without his religious principles. In South Africa he would
have been forced to work on the Sabbath and his religious principles were more precious to
him than South African Pounds Sterling.
Until the First World War, there were quite a number of Trapido
families in Lithuania. The majority of them lived in Kupishok but the rest were scattered
in many other towns. After the First World War, the majority of the younger members left
either for the United States or for South Africa. Those that remained till the Second
World War were wiped out by the Nazis.
Many members of the family that were killed by the Nazis were
prominent people in business and in the professions and one person whom I would like to
mention especially was Chaim Trapido, the son of Noach of Washki. He was an advocate,
editor of the "Yiddishe Shtime" and a born leader. I had the pleasure of meeting
him when I visited Lithuania in May-June 1939. Chaim is mentioned in a few books published
after the war about the Ghettos.
Our special thanks to Israel's daughter, Fay Morris, for
permission to print these memoirs. We can only imagine what we might have known if that
"pinkas" had survived.
a look at some of the Trapido family members in our Photograph